Happy Flowers


Country MoonNo flower says "summer" quite like sunflowers. They are the original happy flower, especially when you see a whole field of them turn their "faces" toward the sun and follow it through the day.

Characterized by their big, daisy-like faces of signature yellow petals and brown centers laiden with seeds, it is hard to feel sad when in their cheery presence. They are grown commercially just south of where I live and it is well worth the short drive to just see a whole field sporting these bright faces.

Besides brightening your day, sunflowers are pretty versatile as virtually every part of them can be utilized from the seeds to the stems. Although the 16-foot varieties are what comes to mind when sunflowers are mentioned, there are shorter and smaller varieties that only reach heights of 18 inches. But, it is the taller ones that usually make the statement. On top of their beauty and versatility, they are relatively easy to grow.

As their name suggests, sunflowers like direct sunlight and lots of it, up to 6 to 8 hours a day. They thrive in long, hot summers. They have long tap roots that need to stretch out so they require loose, well-drained soil that is not compacted. Be sure that each plant has loosened soil to a depth of two feet and a diameter of three feet.

They are heavy feeders so keep the soil nutrient-rich with organic matter, composted manure or granular fertilizer placed 8 inches deep in the soil. Although they like to be fertilized, avoid over feeding as that can cause stems to break in fall when the seed heads are heavy. As far as watering, water deeply once a week with several gallons of water.

Because of their sheer size, most varieties require some sort of support. This can be accomplished by planting by a fence or building or by staking. Planting by buildings will also shelter them from one of their worst enemies, the wind.

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